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ASEAN workshop aims to enhance mental health in public sectors

In recent years, the world has faced numerous crises, adversely affecting individuals’ livelihoods, health, and economies. The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, has strained healthcare systems and exacerbated mental health issues, alongside disruptions to the economy, environment, and social and political climates.

Director General of Public Services at the Prime Minister’s Office Dr Norfarizal bin Othman highlighted these challenges at the the opening ceremony of the Workshop on Strengthening Government Strategies on Mental Health and Well-Being towards Work-Life Balance in the Public Sector on Tuesday.

The opening ceremony was also attended by the Director of Civil Service Institute Dr Hajah Noor Maya binti Haji Md Salleh, as the coordinating government agency.

Director General of Public Services at the Prime Minister’s Office Dr Norfarizal bin Othman in his speech. PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMMAD

Dr Norfarizal emphasised the growing recognition of workplace-related mental health issues and the need for action. He referenced the World Health Organization’s 2022 report, emphasising the workplace as a crucial setting for addressing mental health challenges.

The costs associated with mental health issues at work are significant, including absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased turnover. Dr Norfarizal underscored the importance of addressing these challenges promptly, given their impact on organizational performance.

Recognising variations in mental health definitions and descriptions in the public sector, the workshop aims to collaborate and define mental health specific to ASEAN public sectors. It seeks to produce guidelines promoting mental health at work and enabling individuals to thrive professionally, aligning with the goals of the ASEAN Cooperation on Civil Service Matters (ACCSM).

Dr Norfarizal extended gratitude to experts and participants for their contributions, emphasizing the workshop’s role in building a high-performing, citizen-centric civil service across ASEAN member states. Facilitated by the ASEAN Human Development Organisation (AHDO), the workshop aims to share best practices and strategies related to work-life balance and mental health in the public sector.

Led by experts Dr Bob Aubrey and Dr Oliver Suendermann, the workshop includes participants from ASEAN member states, Timor Leste, and the ASEAN Secretariat, with a focus on producing draft definitions and guiding principles for work-life balance in the public sector.

The workshop, conducted under the ACCSM and featuring virtual participation, is held at the Civil Service Institute and will conclude on June 13, supporting Brunei Darussalam’s ACCSM Chairmanship 2023-2024. – Lyna Mohammad

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